American Cravings

Recently I have been craving Zucchini bread! This is something my mom makes quite frequently at home but I havent had it for a while.  For one thing it’s not French and even before my time here in France I was not living at home and wasn’t doing much baking.

Baking is not really my thing. I am not the most patient person in the world and waiting for the cooling process is usually my downfall.  I always seem to crack a cake or demolish a cookie because I don’t wait for it to cool before trying to pry it off the pan.  This time I made sure to wait the 20 minutes in the pan until flipping the cake over onto a rack. BUT lo and behold I must not have greased the pan sufficiently and now there are two halves of the bread. 😦 It still tastes delicious but I wish I had more luck, especially because the family has never had Zucchini Bread before!

I must say that although I love the food here, there is a limit to it all. I find that in America I can find just about any type of restaurant and my mom also makes just about every type of meal.  In France I find the same menu at most places and at home we eat a lot of the same variety of foods.  Potatoes, cheese, meat with sauce (red meat), yogurt for dessert, salad to start…  I miss a good ol’ brunch!  I think that will be the first thing I have my mom make when I get back to the States: french toast casserole, eggs, bacon, fruit salad and maybe even a loaf of zucchini bread 🙂

How many times can I go to the Louvre in one year?

It’s just become a second home to me now.  Each time I have a visitor, and I have been fortunate enough to have quite a few, I have to take them to Paris. I LOVE Paris, so it’s not a hassle at all but going to the same things over and over can get boring; especially le Louvre. This monstrous building is amazingly interesting but also overwhelming, tiring and honestly not my favorite place in the city.  All that being said, each person needs to say they saw the Mona Lisa and took a picture by the glass pyramid so I do it over and over again.  As I said, every time has been different so that’s good.  One thing that stays the same: the desire to pull the covers back on when I wake up at the crack of dawn to avoid lines.

This time around, with my PIC Amanda, we had a lot of fun.  Having already gotten our fix of Roman sculptures in ROME we cut out a large chunk of the “must-sees”.  As for the rest–being retired swimmers we got our butts up out of bed early and were one of the first 10 people to see Mona Lisa and her lovely smile.  From there we took a grand tour of everything Egyptian and got a little lost along the way (hard to avoid). Avoiding the afternoon mobs we were out of there and napping in the Tuileries Garden before noon.

Our weekend was again very much unplanned but we were able to accomplish A LOT!  Musée d’Orsay, le Louvre , Centre Pompidou (modern art museum), boat tour, Eiffel Tower and Sacre Coeur.  We even snuck in a night out on the town!  The Centre Pompidou was a highlight for me being that I had never visited before.  We made sure to take nothing seriously throughout the weekend…even in our most intellectual settings 🙂

From Naples to Pompeii and Sorrento

So after Rome we took a southbound train to Naples.   We were told the city of Naples was a bit dirty and very “city-like” but I don’t think I really prepared myself for the change from Rome.  Graffiti everywhere, lots of pollution, crowded streets, trash overflowing from each and every trashcan.  We luckily stumbled upon a fantastically charming hostel called 6 Small Rooms.  Australian owned and very homey, safe feeling inside a large city.

Our first half day was spent just walking through the city. We made our way down Toledo Street (one of the main avenues) and to the coast.  Of course on the way we stopped to get a gelato.  FIrst difference to Rome other than the atmosphere of the city, not so much english speaking!  So we picked flavors based on color and instinct….but really can you go wrong with ice cream?

We walked through one of the three castles in the area, Castle dell’Ovo and then made our way up the huge hill to Castle San Elmo where we could see a 360* view of Naples and the coast!  Having absolutely NO plans we stayed up there for a while and just took in the view.  On our way back down to the hostel and the center of town we stopped in a farmacia (Italian is a phonetic language) because I badly wanted a nail file. I know I’m weird but its annoying when you need one and you don’t have it for a week!  After playing charades with the workers I got my file and we sat on a bench.  This is where we met Giovanni (I think that was his name) who told us about his workshop where they make jewelery (we declined a visit but got his card) and then told us about some good places to eat.  We were situated in a “local” area of town so we knew we would find cheaper and better food just staying up on the hill for dinner.   We ended up hitting a jackpot meal of spaghetti and pizza and salad and bread and wine and I want to say we got dessert but I might be wrong; all for 30 euros!  The place was called Gorizia pizzeria.

The next day we did what most people staying in Naples do: take a day trip.  We took the very memorable Circumvesuviana to Pompeii and then on further to Sorrento.  Pompeii was HOT and we ended up doing a very “Amanda/Beth adventure thing” where we don’t have a map or a tour.  Instead we listened to the tours around us for some explanations and just got lost in the ancient buried city.  Surprisingly enough it worked out for us and we had a great time.

My whole trip I wanted to be on the coast of Italy.  I wanted to take the pictures of houses on the cliffs and go swimming in clear water.  In Sorrento my dreams came true!  Sorrento is a little town filled with tourists. It is very beachy chic if you will and we enjoyed every second of our afternoon there.  We took the “Fun Tram Tour” (literally the name) and got to stop at Villa Angelina which might very well be my wedding destination.  hehe!  This villa was filled with lemon trees for lemoncello, yum!  It also had a perfect view of Capri which is on the list for the next Italian adventure.

After our tour we did a little shopping and eating.  We actually ended up eating on a terrace overlooking the whole coast. It was wonderful!  By this time we are tired and hot.  With the water so close and everyone just kind-of jumping in off of the rocks, we couldnt resist!!  Best decision ever and top part of my week for sure.

Our last day in Naples was spent wandering again.  We checked out in the morning and then sat by the water and had a bite to eat before getting the bus to the airport.  This was also an adventure because as I said before, English in Naples is not too common.  I had a very fun experience trying to count change with the lady who sold us bus tickets (which ended up being the wrong ones anyways).  Meanwhile, when I got stuck in Italian/English communication I would stick some French in there too…this had to have thrown people even more off track.  Oops.

From here we said “arrivederci” to Italy and Bonjour to Paris..

Independence Day from Rome and then again in France

Today is Bastille Day, France’s National Holiday.  Basically our July 4th but 10 days later.  We are celebrating today with a bbq and some fireworks at night.  And of course watching the parades taking place at the capital.  This past weekend I was in Paris to end Amanda’s visit (more to come about it later) and saw all the preparations by the Eiffel Tower and L’Avenue des Champs-Élysées.  Should be a big celebration!

So speaking of Amanda’s visit, and Independence Day celebrations, I am going to fill you all in on our Italian/French adventure.  Let’s start with Rome, where we celebrated the 4th of July.

Our adventure really began as we boarded the sleeper car which would take us from Dijon to Rome.  An experience I think everyone should have, we enjoyed being smushed in the middle bunk for 13 or so hours!! Only woke up once when our door was knocked on to check our things for pick-pocketers….nice to know they’re looking out.

When we finally arrived in Rome around noon, we hit the ground running. We did the Roman ruins and Colosseum which literally can take up multiple days if you let it. That night we had dinner downtown by the Trevi Fountain. A friend from Dijon had told me to see the fountain at night because it was more magical and less crowded. I have to say that her advice was well taken!

Amanda and I are good travel partners for the most part. We are both easy going and although Amanda likes to be a little more prepared than me, she goes along with my live and learn mentality. So we didn’t really PLAN per say for the trip. We did however print out a little 3 page guide thing of Rome and Naples–our two Italian destinations. They ended up being helpful on the eating front; all we worried about anyways.  The night we went to the Trevi Fountain we knew we wanted to find Al Picchio.  We were successful to find this cute restau and began with a Peroni and bruschetta. It was delicious! We also put in our pizza order from their extensive list. Things were going great, until the girls next to us told us that the credit card machine was down. Damn! We were planning on saving those Euros for things other than eating. Long story short we had to leave after only our appetizer.  Not only were we upset, but the owner was also sad to see us go.   This was the first of many lessons we learned during our trip; lessons about traveling and eating out.  Lesson 1: ask if they take credit cards before sitting down.

We sat at another pizza place (we were by all means on a pizza diet) and although the prices were higher we were equally impressed with the pizzas offered…but they only took cash. See Ya!  Next stop.  Takes credit cards, seating outside…we’re starving:  lets do it! Too bad the food was less than par and the draft beer tasted like the tap had never been changed. We can just chalk it up to being a very bitter meal.

The next day we woke up early and got to the Vatican City. Let me start by just saying that it was SO HOT in Italy. Literally if I couldve just worn my bikini all day long I might have. But I knew that today in the holy city I needed to cover up; or at least I thought I knew this.  I specifically put on two tanks to make sure my bra didnt show, but this isnt what the Vaticanians had in mind….  Rule was to cover up shoulders and legs.  In order to do this we bought the most touristy things you can think of: “I Love Roma” T Shirts and Scarves covered with monuments.  We didnt stick out as clueless American tourists at all…

Dressed in our best, we took a tour of the amazing Sistine chapel and walked up the Basilica’s 500+ steps. It was all worth it and I was blown away!

We ended our afternoon sitting on the Spanish Steps which we happened to stumble upon (our no planning thing works out for us most of the time).

For our second night out in Rome, which just so happened to be the 4th of July, we again searched for a little restaurant from our write-up. Found it but with “no room in the Inn” we moved on.  And this is where lesson 2 was learned: some restaurants are bad and they serve frozen food. Dont eat there…you can find better! But we ate there and drank the house wine from the jug and had the end of dinner Lemonchello shot and eventually found ourselves spending a fun night with PSU alum in a Steelers bar in Rome. Seriously! Happy Birthday America 😉

The next morning we had the only rain of our trip.  Lucky for us and our hangovers we used this morning storm to sleep in!  When we finally got up around noon we were starving…for pizza. Duh!  We stumbled upon the best restaurant of the trip (I’ll get you all the name when I find it) where we ate the best pizza in Rome!  My mouth waters just thinking of the gorgonzola, pear, walnut pizza I ate!

Then we walked to Pantheon, Trevi Fountain (I didnt have my camera the first time) and then went to explore the ‘local side of the city” starting with the Island Tiberina and then the town Trastevere.  I suggest going here if you find yourself in Rome because it really takes you away from touristy things (and traps lie frozen food).  We came back to this side of the city to eat dinner at a “local restaurant.”  It was fun to decipher the language and try and communicate with the waitresses.

All in all Rome was fantastic and made us want to learn Italian and move there…..one day, one day.

“Vacation all I ever wanted, Vacation got to get away”

I just returned from my first of two summer vacations!  This one was extra special because my best friend Amanda came in from the States.  It was so nice to gossip and catch up face-to-face and not over e-mail, g-chat or Skype!  Amanda wanted to take advantage of me living in France to come over to Europe and I wanted to take advantage of having my PIC in the same country as me so that I could do some traveling!  So to cater to both our wishes we spent some time in Bourgogne with my Au Pair family and then hit the road and toured a bit of Italy for a week.  We ended with a weekend in Paris before Amanda got back on a plane to the States. I miss her already but I am so excited to relive our amazing vacation by blogging all about it!

So with that said, the next week (or two depending on how quickly I get my thoughts organized) will be dedicated to my Italian holiday with Amanda! Enjoy and dont be too jealous 😉